J.Y. Ping is the co-founder of 7Sage LSAT Prep, which is dedicated to making law school accessible to everyone through high quality and affordable online LSAT prep. He is also the co-founder of PreProBono, a non-profit that helps economically disadvantaged and underrepresented minority pre-law students acquire and utilize law degrees for careers in public interest law. He graduated from Columbia University in 2007 and earned his J.D. from Harvard Law School in 2011. We sat down with him to talk about his law school experience and how he is using that to help other students prepare.
What made you want to go to law school?
Maybe this is still true, but back when I was there, Columbia’s career services pushed investment banking and strategy consulting pretty hard. I didn’t want to work those kinds of jobs because it wasn’t clear to me whether they added value to society. The summers came and went, and I found myself about to graduate with no work experience and a lot of anxiety. Law school seemed like a convenient way to defer my career choice.
Did you always want to go to law school throughout all of your undergraduate years?
Definitely not. The first week of school, I flirted with pre-med until I attended the orientation and saw how heavy the course work was going to be. Then I grew interested in philosophy via Contemporary Civilization and thought I might want to pursue graduate studies in philosophy. I took an intro-level graduate class, Modal Logic with Achille Varzi, and found the subject matter abstruse (even though Professor Varzi was a phenomenal teacher). I ended up majoring in economics-political science with a concentration in philosophy, which prepared me well for law school.
Were there any professors that inspired you to go?
Many professors at Columbia did inspire me, however briefly, to follow in their academic footsteps, but no one professor inspired me to go to law school.
What about pro bono work captivated your interest for 8 years?
I immigrated to America with my mom when I was 7 and grew up poor. My mom worked very hard to make sure I got an excellent education. I really cannot imagine what my life would’ve been like without the opportunities I found in America. Education is not an abstract concept to me. I know from personal experience its power to improve people’s lives. That’s why I founded PreProBono with Jerone Hsu (also CC ’07) during our senior year. We wanted to help poor, minority, and immigrant kids the best way we knew how. For me, that meant teaching the LSAT, because that was what I could do very well. We targeted students in the CUNY system and gave law school aspirants not just free but the best LSAT prep. It was an incredibly rewarding experience.
[Note to Joshua: I worked with PreProBono through 2013, which would make it about 5 years. I’m happy to report that the organization is doing terrific without me.]
How did that influence your founding of 7Sage?
PreProBono is a non-profit that provides LSAT instruction, along with a few other services. I was the main instructor. I only have 24 hours in a day, and eventually I’d get tired or make mistakes—or I’d begin to get impatient when I had to explain a concept for the 7th time. There were physical constraints on how much service I could provide. Scaling up would have required a lot of fundraising, and even then we could have only scaled geometrically, not exponentially, because every instructor would have been subject to the same physical constraints. 7Sage, on the other hand, benefits from being online. By digitizing my instruction at its best, I was able to transcend the constraints on my time and scale my service exponentially. Now I can help anyone who needs it with free logic game explanations and comprehensive LSAT courses at a great value.
Can you explain what areas of law 7Sage covers?
We currently have LSAT courses and a course on how to get into law school. We’re working on a bar prep course due to be released in late 2017.
Why did you pick Japan as the location for 7Sage?
7Sage’s team is entirely remote. Alan, my co-founder and CTO, is based in Vancouver, where he is from. Our student services manager, Dillon, is in Cornwall (also Canada). Nicole, our community director, is in Texas. David, our editor and admissions consultant is based in Chicago. I’m nomadic. Currently, I’m in Kyoto. I’ll be here until August, and I haven’t decided where I’ll go after.
What advice would you give to someone considering law school?
Work hard to earn a high GPA. Take as many classes as you think you can handle. Admissions committees look hard at transcripts and are very discerning. Work with professors you admire. See if you can be a research assistant, or maybe even co-author a paper with one of them. Maybe you’ll decide to be an academic after all. If not, you’ll likely get a good recommendation letter at the very least. Study long and hard for the LSAT. It’s the most important factor in law school admissions.
How did you go about studying for the LSAT? Any tips?
I set aside a very long time: over a year. I think my background in economics and philosophy helped immensely. A lot of the successful strategies I came up with I’ve implemented in the 7Sage curriculum. My biggest tip is to sign up for a free account with 7Sage. You can access our logic game explanations, our tool to find real study buddies nearby (like at Columbia), our test proctor app, and more.
What would you say was the hardest part of law school?
The huge mismatch between what you do for homework and in classes and what’s required of you on the exam. It felt like a bait and switch to me. You spend all semester discussing cases, reading a lot of them in detail, and then your entire grade depends on an issue-spotting exam.